Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Getting your Head around the IBM Connections ID

We had a very useful meeting with IBM last week and a lot came out of it. A lot of things from that meeting will probably hit this blog in one form or another.  One rather interesting topic for us was "users". 

Our organisation uses a "Membership structure", meaning that while the organisation itself only has a small number of "core users", we have an enormous number of "extended users" (members) who don't work directly for us but connect on a number of issues and participate in a number of groups on a very regular basis. 

It sounds like an unusual organisational structure but once you get your head around the model, you'll find that it's not only fairly common but that it's becoming more common for companies to work this way.

...and it's a great fit for IBM Connections**

**Note that when I talk about IBM Connections, I'm talking about their Connections.Cloud product, why would I talk about anything else?


Verse Users and Contacts 
One of the first things we noticed when we moved some of our test users up to verse was the absence of many of our contacts.

In IBM Notes/Domino we use two address books, one for actual employees and the other for members of other organisations. It's kind of like a central CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.  Moving up to Verse only took our staff members lists.

The problem with that is simply that we can't lookup their details easily "on the road" because they're no longer in our cloud-based "traveler". Also, we can't email them by name from verse, and we can't easily schedule meetings. It's a big problem for us. 

There's apparently a way to fix this, it's something to do with the extended directory catalog but we're still working on it so I don't have any magic solutions there.

We've also discovered that in a half-migrated hybrid setup, non-verse (Notes) users can't see new entries in the personal calendars for Verse users. We're not sure if that's a problem with our specific setup or a general problem. 

Back to users... what was interesting from IBM was the idea that verse and connections aren't using the same "address book". For those of us coming from a Notes/Domino background, this is rather unusual.


IBM Connections Users
Unlike Verse, there are no simple "contacts" in connections, everyone is a "user" in some form. They're either full users or "guests" of full users. 

What's interesting though is that connections users are more or less unique (by email address). That's to say that an email address can only be used once in connections. A connections user logs in with their email address and a password.

The account is set up when they first use connections regardless of whether it is a guest account or a paid corporate account. If a person starts  as a guest of one company and their own company later adopts connections, the password remains the same, the account is simply "upgraded" thus preserving all of their existing "connections".

It's clever and clearly IBM is banking on the features of connections "selling" the service to their "guests"; which it largely does.

There's still one problematic area. The world of Connections US and Connections Asia-Pacific seem to be disconnected. The login is shared, so you can't add a US person to the Japanese data centre because the email address has already been used but equally, you can't engage people from different data centres in the same communities.

In a global economy, this is a big problem but IBM is working on it, so hopefully it will get some priority.

The other problems from my point of view are that connections is very flat, it lacks hierarchy (nested groups). A very useful Notes feature. It also seems to lack a bit of granularity (something provided by two more great Notes/Domino features; [Roles] and Readers/Authors fields). Add something like that and there's no compelling reason to stay on Domino any more.

In the meantime, thanks to the open API in connections, there's a new breed of "Domino" app moving in to bridge those gaps between Notes and Connections.

No comments: